So Scotland has voted to remain part of the United Kingdom; the Union is saved, or (depending on your point of view) it has escaped intact for a time. There will not — not yet at least — be any parting of the ways within this particular marriage of nations.
The readership of NEW DIRECTIONS no doubt encompasses both Unionists and Nationalists, and there is no right answer, from a Gospel perspective, to the political and constitutional questions around sovereignty and independence prompted by the recent referendum. Perhaps Christians with a Catholic cast of mind can be quietly thankful that arguments beyond the strictly (or merely) economic were given some air as the campaign neared its conclusion: the decision was one in which ethos, culture and a sense of a shared history and, au fond, shared values surely played a part, alongside the properly pragmatic considerations about taxation, public spending, the management of debt and so on. Perhaps the desire not to put in jeopardy constitutional arrangements built on the foundation of a Christian monarchy played a part too: we cannot know. Now that the vote has been taken and the result is known, all can agree that the Christian imperative for reconciliation and the flourishing of all the people of Scotland (and of the rest of the United Kingdom too) must come to the fore; political leaders (those pro-and anti-independence) will now demonstrate their leadership insofar as they work for the common good and put their differences aside for the sake of all.
The campaign against independence was led by an organization calling itself Better Together. In the first half of 2012 another group of the same name briefly flourished in the political arena of the Church of England; it produced some attractive literature (mostly, and unashamedly, featuring photographs of younger and more attractive Christians) and received a good deal of attention in the chamber of the General Synod. Its purpose was to encourage the rest of the Church of England so to appreciate the contribution made by one of its parts that she (the Church of England) would not want to see such people go. The strategy was different from some aspects of earlier campaigns around the same issue: Better Together was not about threats to leave, or even about anathematizing those who take a different view; it was an exercise in reminding the Church of England that, to lose a part, would be irrevocably to change the character and identity of the whole, to the huge detriment and diminishing of all.
Better Together (Scotland), an organization seen as tired, lacklustre and uninspiring for so much of the campaign, has won. Better Together (Church of England) received a good deal of criticism at the time: too glossy, too flaky, too keen to cosy up to the Establishment. Did it `win'? The analogy between the Scots deciding on their future as a nation, and the Church of England legislating for women bishops quickly breaks down. Insofar as Better Together (CofE) tried to do something to restore the reputation of a Catholic movement which had (unjustly) become tarnished by a combination of alleged misogyny on the one hand and perceived missional sclerosis on the other, then perhaps it succeeded in helping to make the weather by which the (disastrous) Measure was defeated in November 2012 and the (much better) one passed this July.
And looking ahead? Almost all of the power to determine whether the Church of England henceforth really will be a place in which all can flourish, irrespective of their theological convictions about the ordained ministry of women, lies with those who support this development; among bishops and others in senior posts in the Church of England, that majority is overwhelming. Will those who have it use that power graciously and justly, putting their own views aside, to work for the good of all in this Church? Or will they gather up the spoils and seek by means (covert or otherwise) to make life so impossible for the minority that, inevitably, it withers away?
We shall see. Meanwhile, in this time of waiting for the first appointment of women to the ranks of the episcopate, and as we believe this issue of NEW DIRECTIONS amply illustrates, traditionalist Catholics and Evangelicals will go on working for the renewal of the Church, for the sake of all the people of the (still) United Kingdom, and for the building up of the Kingdom of God.
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